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Afghan farmers now feeding U.S. troops

Feb. 5, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
GIs Teach Farming in Afghanistan
An Afghan worker waters plants in Panjshir province, Afghanistan. U.S. troops are feasting on Afghan-grown produce as part of a new partnership. (Air Force 2nd Lt. Jason Smith)
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U.S. troops in Afghanistan are now eating vegetables grown by local Afghan farmers.

Under a program that began in September, Afghan farmers have been supplying broccoli and cauliflower at all of the dining facilities at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, said Army Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support commander.

DLA also expects to purchase the following fruits and vegetables from Afghan farmers by this summer: Green beans, Danish and red cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, cucumbers, honeydew, iceberg and romaine lettuce, green onions, sweet Spanish onions, parsley, baking and white potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, tomatoes and watermelon, said Stacey Hajdak, a spokeswoman for DLA troop support.

DLA has no plans to also buy meat from local vendors, Shapiro told Military Times on Wednesday.

A Dubai-based firm has a five-and-half year contract worth about $8.1 billion to buy local produce from Afghan farmers and transport the food to more than 150 places in Afghanistan, according to the DLA. If the US and Afghanistan fail to reach an agreement that would allow US troops to remain in the country beyond this year, the contract would be void, Shapiro said.

“Our hope is, whether they sign or they don’t sign the BSA [bilateral security agreement], that these local farmers at a certain point – when our headcount goes down later on this year but they’re still producing – we’d like to think that they’re going to be able to start exporting these local fresh fruits and vegetables,” Shapiro said.

An added benefit to buying food from local farmers is that it improves security for US troops in Afghanistan, Shapiro said.

“The more activity, the better the economy, the more people that we employ doing constructive work, the less opportunity they have to go over and work with anti-Afghan forces like al-Qaida or the Taliban,” he said.

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